If Mr. Matthews violated the law, he should have been tried
Jean did not wait to see any more than that; she did not need to see any more to know them for "rustlers." Brazen rustlers, indeed, to go about their work in broad daylight like that. She was not sure as to the ownership of the calf, but down here was where the Bar Nothing cattle, and what few were left of the Lazy A, ranged while the feed was good in the spring, so that the probabilities were that this theft would strike rather close home. Whether it did or not, Jean was not one to ride away and leave range thieves calmly at work.
She turned back behind the bushy screen, rode hastily along the ridge to the head of the little coulee and dismounted, leading Pard down a steep bank that was treacherous with loose shale. The coulee was more or less open, but it had convenient twists and windings; and if you think that Jean failed to go down it quietly and unseen, that merely proves how little you know Jean.
She hurried as much as she dared. She knew that the rustlers would be in something of a hurry themselves, and she very much desired to ride on them unawares and catch them at that branding, so that there would be no shadow of a doubt of their guilt. What she would do after she had ridden upon them, she did not quite know.
So she came presently around the turn that revealed them to her. They were still fussing with the calf,-- or it may have been another one,--and did not see her until she was close upon them. When they did see her, she had them covered with her 38-caliber six-shooter, that she usually carried with her on the chance of getting a shot at a coyote or a fox or something like that.
The three stood up and stared at her, their jaws sagging a little at the suddenness of her appearance, and their eyes upon the gun. Jean held it steady, and she had all the look of a person who knew exactly what she meant, and who meant business. She eyed them curiously, noting the fact that they were strangers, and cowboys,--though of a type that she had never seen on the range. She glanced sharply at the beaded, buckskin jacket of one of them, and the high, wide-brimmed sombrero of another.
"Well," she said at length, "turn your backs, you've had a good look at me. Turn--your--backs, I said. Now, drop those guns on the ground. Walk straight ahead of you till you come to that bank. You needn't look around; I'm still here."
She leaned a little, sending Pard slowly forward until he was close to the six-shooters lying on the ground. She glanced down at them quickly, and again at the men who stood, an uneasy trio, with their faces toward the wall, except when they ventured a glance sidewise or back at her over one shoulder. She glanced at the cattle huddled in the narrow mouth of the "draw" behind them, and saw that they were indeed Bar Nothing and Lazy A stock. The horses the three had been riding she did not remember to have seen before.
Jean hesitated, not quite knowing what she ought to do next. So far she had acted merely upon instincts born of her range life and training; the rest would not be so easy. She knew she ought to have those guns, at any rate, so she dismounted, still keeping the three in line with her own weapon, and went to where the revolvers lay on the ground. With her boot toe she kicked them close together, and stooped and picked one up. The last man in the line turned toward her protestingly, and Jean fired so close to his head that he ducked.